Art That’s Pretty or Art That’s Gritty?

versions of grey, mixing grey paint,

Is “Pretty” good enough?  How “Gritty” does it need to be?  These questions are what artists might ask themselves as they set out to create.

watercolor flower bouquet, still life,
Bouquet in Spring


Yes, Its a pretty spring flower painting.  But….


Pretty Picture


Merely surface pretty can be just plain vapid.   Leaving one hungry for more within a few minutes. Anxious to hurry up and move on to the “next.”

Prettiness does not necessarily always fill the well.


watercolor flower techniques, easy beginners watercolors, debi riley art
Soft Garden Blooms


If we’re lucky,  it will also have depth and substance. Thats when I know I have succeeded.


versions of grey, oil painting,
Grey Interpretations





black and white photography, sky clouds, contemplations,
dove released





versions of grey, mixing grey paint,
Inflections Blue Greys


On the other side: Gritty.

Unrelieved Stark, Raw emotion can be too painfully confronting and overwhelming, if its in excess.

If it is right in your face with no let up. There is Just Too much tension. We want to run for the hills!


The artist must balance the two (pretty and gritty)   on the fine edge of the highwire.

on the edge
On the Edge




Sometimes when I use the camera to create, I will try to evoke a quieter and reflective mood. But it is with the intent of contemplation.

I aim to draw the viewer in, to stir their imaginations and thoughts.

By camera or by brush.

creating mood, photos and art,
Reflecting in Darwin



I try to integrate and infuse my images with something beyond the surface of the subject.


To interject in between  these layers a deeper meaning and context, that hopefully the viewers will sense.

I aim to reveal from behind the veil, a vulnerability.

A sensitivity that surface pretty will not show.


I’m not always successful, but,  that is nearly always my creative goal.


Blue veil gouache and watercolor,
The Blue Veil

If I’ve been successful in my objectives,  then  my image is both  pleasing and has some grit.


rough bark photograph, canon eos, debi riley art, art basics
Rough Start, Getting Softer in The Back



Good, Enough

Now, to return to a phrase that really isn’t in my teaching vocabulary, nor in my practice vocabulary either.


“Good Enough.”

I don’t  use that term.


I use the terms:  “Does it meet my criteria,objectives?” ,

“Is it a step in the right direction, does it take me closer to where I’d like to go?”

These are positive and encouraging.



“Good Enough,”  has a ring of negativity that infers,  it will Never ever be Good Enough.

There will always be a flaw.

I choose optimism and positive reinforcement for my artistic self.





Definitely,  there are days I will choose Pretty Art  over Gritty Art.

Because that is what I need, on  that day.

But overall, I know that to improve my art,  I need to focus on creating art that has some grit to it along with the pretty.



Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

32 thoughts on “Art That’s Pretty or Art That’s Gritty?

  1. Excellent lesson! It’s another part of the balancing act in art. So much of the creative process is difficult to put into words. You do a very good job of describing elements in ways that are easily understood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you Judith!! a balancing act on the high wire indeed 🙂 I did have a hard time in my early days, as instructors used lingo without descriptions. making me feel a bit ‘inept’….. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I learn so much every time I read one of your posts! Have I told you lately how grateful i am for the time you put into your posts and the amazing information you share?! Such great stuff Debi! Such…. great…. stuff…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad! Its really rewarding to know you gain some insights, bits and pieces from the posts (Jodi)! Thank you for sharing that!!
      Especially with the WORLDS of art info out there… the mind just boggles.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you Charlie, very much. you do that really well, I think. And when you add your stories, It gives the whole creation a unique flavour and character that I find – well, very, Charlie!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I always lean toward the gritty Debi. When there’s grit I want to investigate and touch. There is depth and dimension, and I want to ask, how did the artist do that? Great topic, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very inspiring post with lots to think about. At the moment, I like the grey and gritty ones. I was reading this morning the write up of Mark Rothko on Wikipedia and saw his 10 ingredients for painting. The first one: “There must be a clear preoccupation with death”. Not really a recipe for Pretty Art, but then the tide goes both ways, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks you for a very thought provoking comment!
      and oh my!! his preoccupation…that might have pushed past gritty… to Run for hills! (for me.) But, I must say I adore his work 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. quite possibly. I’d never cope if the sole thing…. I had… was my painting.
        My family, children, work and friends kept me going on more than one occasion in life! 🙂

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  5. I love the first two paintings a lot, they give a lot of “food” to my “rowdy” imagination. Wonderful colors, I specially like the colors in the first painting, because these are my fav colors. Cheers Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On the edge and Inflections are my favorites. Wow! Love those blues and all the texture you got – I’m guessing that must be acrylics? Gorgeous. Your photos are always wonderful too. You’re very blessed with lots of talent! Thanks always for the info and tips you pass along. Very much appreciated, my friend.


  7. Thought provoking post Debi, so glad I found you. Love your image “Rough Start, Getting Softer in The Back”. Some days pretty works very well and other days gritty is just to much to take. But as usual finding a balance with these objectives works best. I will keep this in mind. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great pick up on the rhyme!! 🙂 thank you for your comment today, I love hearing from people and getting a feel for how the post went that day. And some days…. are just more gritty; or pretty than others. 🙂 Thanks Again, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

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